Please welcome Lilah Suzanne and
Los Angeles-based stylist Nico Takahashi loves his job—or at least, he used to. Feeling fed up and exhausted from the cutthroat, gossip-fueled business of Hollywood, Nico daydreams about packing it all in and leaving for good. So when Grady Dawson—sexy country music star and rumored playboy—asks Nico to style him, Nico is reluctant. But after styling a career-changing photo-shoot, Nico follows Grady to Nashville where he finds it increasingly difficult to resist Grady’s charms. Can Nico make peace with show business and all its trappings, or will Grady’s public persona get in the way of their private attraction to each other?
Grady presses his lips flat, looks up at the ceiling again to gather himself, sniffs and nods, then tugs Nico’s foot closer by his ankle. “Do you think... If we’d met at a bar. Or through a friend of a friend. Or the gym.” Grady’s thumb strokes the tender skin of Nico’s calf beneath the hem of his pants. “If we had just been two regular guys? We really could have been something.”
There’s a question in his voice, a hesitancy that maybe Nico would have rejected him eventually anyway. Nico scoots across the cramped bunk, crowds against Grady, shoulder to shoulder. “Well, we never would have met at the gym because I would have taken one look at you and gone home to mourn the body I’ll never have by consuming gallons of ice cream.”
Grady bumps his shoulder. “Shut up, you’re gorgeous.” He tips his head against the wall and grins. “If I’d first seen you at a bar I probably would have humiliated myself by trying to win you over with bad karaoke and shameless flirting.”
Nico’s eyebrows raise. “You mean to tell me you’ve been holding back on me? You have a level of flirting that’s even more shameless?”
“Oh yeah. You ain’t seen nothin’, sweetheart.”
Grady laughs, bright and uninhibited. Nico is so relieved to hear it, a moment of light in the darkness. Grady’s hand rests on Nico’s knee, Nico watches his own hand brush his fingers there, but he doesn’t linger.
“We aren’t, though. Just two random guys.”
Grady’s fingers flex, curving over his kneecap. “No.”
Nico exhales harshly. “I have never wanted to be a groupie so badly.”
Grady shoves at his leg. “Come on, you didn’t really think that I would do that to you—”
“In my weaker, more insecure moments?” Nico scrunches his face, embarrassed. “Yeah, I did.”
“You think that little of me, huh?” He says it with a teasing grin, but Nico’s heart sinks.
“No, Grady. I think you’re…” A million adjectives flash through his head: beautiful, amazing, stunning, compassionate, kind, generous. A supernova. He settles on, “Really special.”
Grady gives a skeptical lift of his eyebrows. “Uh oh. I’m really special, huh?”
“I’m so, so into you and it’s…” He cringes at the words but it’s true, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Oh lord.” Grady laments with a laugh. “Not that, please.”
“I’m the guy on the sidelines. I’m the one who makes everyone else shine. I don’t belong there, in the spotlight. I like that at the end of the day I can go home and just walk away from the cameras and the red carpets and the scrutiny. And you—you’re a star. And you can have anyone.”
Grady turns, the cramped space of the bunk making his limbs bump and nudge and curl around Nico’s body. During Grady’s shows, in the moment just before he starts singing the opening line of “Broken Records,” there’s this pause, this moment suspended in the air when the audience is silent and waiting and doesn’t even dare to inhale because in that moment, Grady’s soul is laid bare. He looks at Nico just like that and Nico can’t breathe around it.
“I don’t want anyone,” he says, voice low and serious. “I want you. How do you not get that?”
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Hi Lilah, thanks for answering a few questions.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’m not one to outline or plan in extensive detail, I’ve learned the hard way that it just doesn’t work for me. As far as plot goes, I have a basic outline and as I write the story tends to fill itself in. For characters I start with the basics about them: What they do for a living, what they look like, their names. And again, they tend to take life as I go along. Sometimes I do like to write short stories about them that won’t make it into the book. It helps me get to know them.
Who doesn’t love a good hero?
Tell us about your protagonist. Was there a real life inspiration behind them?
I read a lot about celebrity stylists and what it takes to be one, so I used some of that for Nico’s personality: that he’s immensely hard working and generous, but also can be judgmental and cynical—hazards of the business he’s in.
What real-life inspirations do you use when world building?
I am a very visual person, so I like to collect images. I’m also unorganized so it tends to be a pretty haphazard collection! But if I can see it, if I can build an image of it in my head, I can describe it in a way that (hopefully) feels real. So, for example, I spent a lot of time putting together actual outfits that Nico would wear, or would put Grady in. Like a stylist would, I made look-books, to lend a sense of reality to the story. You can even look at them here: lilahsuzanne.polyvore.com
Did you learn anything from this book and what was it?
I certainly learned a lot about designer clothes and how stylists do what they do! I learned that there are high-end sweatpants that cost hundreds of dollars, that was a revelation. A lot more about country music than I knew before. I also learned that one of the main themes of the story—do we find happiness, or do we find a way to be happy regardless of circumstance—was a lesson I needed to learn.
It’s your last meal on earth. What do you choose?
Thanksgiving dinner. The full multi-course shebang.
About the author:
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of Interlude Press books Spice, and Pivot And Slip. Broken Records is Book One in Lilah’s Spotlight Series.
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